Sexton v. Furr et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala on 2/26/2016. (KEK)
2016 Feb-26 AM 10:09
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
TIMOTHY DYANE SEXTON,
ALAN C. FURR, et al.,
Case No.: 4:14-cv-02165-MHH
On June 12 2015, Magistrate Judge Harwell Davis entered a report and
recommendation concerning plaintiff Timothy Dyane Sexton’s complaint. (Doc.
7). In his report, Judge Davis recommended that the Court dismiss Mr. Sexton’s
claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) for failure to state a claim. (Doc. 7, p.
7). Mr. Sexton filed objections to the report and recommendation. (Doc. 8). For
the reasons stated below, the Court adopts Judge Davis’s report and accepts his
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A district court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or part, the findings
or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).
When a party files timely objections to a report and recommendation, the district
court must “make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or
specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” Id.
The Court reviews for plain error the portions of the report or proposed
findings to which no objection is made. Garvey v. Vaughn, 993 F.2d 776, 779 n. 9
(11th Cir. 1993); see also United States v. Slay, 714 F.2d 1093, 1095 (11th Cir.
1983) (per curiam), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 1050 (1984) (“The failure to object to
the magistrate’s findings of fact prohibits an attack on appeal of the factual
findings adopted by the district court except on grounds of plain error or manifest
injustice.”) (internal citation omitted); Macort v. Prem, Inc., 208 Fed. Appx. 781,
784 (11th Cir. 2006).
Mr. Sexton’s Complaint Fails to State a Claim against Defendant
Mr. Sexton objects to Judge Davis’s recommendation that the Court dismiss
Mr. Sexton’s claim against Alabama Bureau of Investigation employee Donald
Salser. Judge Davis correctly concluded that Mr. Sexton’s complaint does not
state a claim against Mr. Salser because Mr. Sexton did not allege “facts which
show that Salser influenced [Judge] Furr’s decision to set the plaintiff’s bond at a
certain amount.” (See Doc. 7, p. 5).
According to Mr. Sexton’s complaint, Mr. Salser arrested Mr. Sexton on
July 24, 2013. (Doc. 1, p. 3). On July 25, 2013, Mr. Sexton appeared before Judge
Alan Furr. Judge Furr stated that Mr. Sexton faced an additional charge, and Judge
Furr set Mr. Sexton’s bond at $1,000,000. (Doc. 1, p. 3). Mr. Sexton contends that
on July 26, 2013, Mr. Salser visited him in jail and tried to question him. Mr.
Sexton told Mr. Salser that he did not want to talk. (Doc. 1, p. 3). Afterwards, the
state added a third charge, and Judge Furr set Mr. Sexton’s bond at $2,000,000.
(Doc. 1, p. 4).1 Mr. Sexton contends that Mr. Salser “told the alleged victim . . .
that he would make sure [Mr. Sexton’s] bond was set to where no one [Mr. Sexton
knew] would be able to get [Mr. Sexton] out.” (Doc. 1, p. 4). Mr. Sexton asserts
that Judge Furr and Mr. Salser “maliciously made [his] bond high enough to deny
[Mr. Sexton] due process.” (Doc. 1, p. 5). These allegations fall short of stating a
§ 1983 claim against Mr. Salser.
The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution states: “Excessive
bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual
U.S. Const. amend. VII.
“[T]he Eighth Amendment
Mr. Sexton’s state court record in State of Alabama v. Sexton, CC-2013-409 is available on
alacourt.com. The Court takes judicial notice of that record. See Horne v. Potter, 392 Fed.
Appx. 800, 802 (11th Cir. 2010) (district court properly took judicial notice of documents related
to another lawsuit because the documents “were public records that were ‘not subject to
reasonable dispute’ because they were ‘capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to
sources whose accuracy could not reasonably be questioned’”) (quoting Fed. R. Evid. 201(b);
other internal citations omitted).
Mr. Sexton was charged in the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, Alabama, Pell City Division,
with five counts: (1) producing pornography with minors; (2) dissemination of obscene material;
(3) possession of obscene matter; (4) first degree rape; and (5) first degree sexual abuse. (See
December 9, 2013 docket entries and Doc. 34, State of Alabama v. Sexton, CC-2013-409). On
July 30, 2015, Mr. Sexton pleaded guilty to possession of obscene matter and first degree rape.
(Doc. 34, State of Alabama v. Sexton, CC-2013-409).
applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.” Chandler v. Crosby,
397 F.3d 1278, 1288 n. 20 (11th Cir. 2004). “[A] public official is liable under §
1983 only if he causes the plaintiff to be subjected to a deprivation of his
constitutional rights.” Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137 (1979) (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted). Therefore, to state a claim against Mr. Salser under §
1983, Mr. Sexton must allege facts showing that Mr. Salser caused Judge Furr to
set an unconstitutional bond. See Jackson v. Sauls, 205 F.3d 1156, 1168 (11th Cir.
2000) (“For damages to be proximately caused by a constitutional tort, a plaintiff
must show that, except for that constitutional tort, such injuries and damages
would not have occurred and further that such injuries and damages were the
reasonably foreseeable consequences of the tortious acts or omissions in issue.”).
Mr. Sexton’s complaint does not satisfy this requirement.
In Alabama, judicial officers have the exclusive authority to set bond. See
Ala. Code § 12-22-222(b) (explaining that “the judge or court” directs “the clerk of
court in which conviction was had to admit the defendant to bail in a sum which
may be prescribed by the court”); Ala. R. Crim. P. 7.2 (noting that judges and
magistrates of the state courts are responsible for setting and reducing bond). A
court may consider a number of factors and recommended guidelines when setting
bond. See Ala. R. Crim. P. 7.2(a), (b). It is reasonably foreseeable that a judge
considering the conduct with which Mr. Sexton was charged independently would
decide to set a high bond to prevent pre-trial release.
The Court cannot infer on the record before it that Mr. Salser impacted
Judge Furr’s decision regarding bond. Mr. Sexton does not allege facts showing
that Mr. Salser influenced Judge Furr’s decision to set Mr. Sexton’s bond at a
particular amount. In fact, Mr. Sexton does not allege that Mr. Salser
communicated with Judge Furr about Mr. Sexton’s bond. Because Mr. Sexton has
failed to allege that Mr. Salser spoke to Judge Furr or otherwise influenced Judge
Furr’s decision regarding the bond amount, the Court will dismiss Mr. Sexton’s
claim against Mr. Salser. See Bey v. Adams, 2015 WL 3839908, at *10-11 (N.D.
Ala. June 22, 2015) (dismissing § 1983 claim for excessive bail against police
officers because the plaintiff failed to allege that the officer “influenced any
judicial officer’s independent judgment in setting his bail”); Gresham v. Dell, 630
F. Supp. 1135, 1137 (N.D. Ga. 1986) (dismissing § 1983 excessive bail claim and
noting that “the amount of bail to be assessed in each case is within the sound
discretion of the trial judge, and is not subject to question absent a clear abuse of
Judge Furr is Immune from Suit for Money Damages.
Mr. Sexton also objects to Judge Davis’s recommendation that the Court
dismiss the claim for money damages against Judge Furr. Mr. Sexton asks: “how
can a judge not be held responsible for any acts in her/hers jurisdiction and be able
to do anything they like and not be held responsible.” (See Doc. 8, p. 2).
answer to Mr. Sexton’s question lies in Eleventh Circuit precedent.
Eleventh Circuit, “[j]udges are entitled to absolute judicial immunity from
damages for those acts taken while they are acting in their judicial capacity unless
they acted in the clear absence of all jurisdiction.” Bolin v. Story, 225 F.3d 1234,
1239) (11th Cir. 2000) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks and citations
“This immunity applies even when the judge’s acts are in error,
malicious, or were in excess of his or her jurisdiction.”
Id. (citing Stump v.
Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-57 (1978)). “Although unfairness and injustice to a
litigant may result on occasion, ‘it is a general principle of the highest importance
to the proper administration of justice that a judicial officer, in exercising the
authority vested in him, shall be free to act upon his own convictions, without
apprehension of personal consequences to himself.’” Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9,
10 (1991) (quoting Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. 335, 347 (1872)). Mr. Sexton does
not allege that Judge Furr acted in the clear absence of all jurisdiction, and the
record indicates that Judge Furr had jurisdiction to set Mr. Sexton’s bond.
Therefore, the Court will dismiss Mr. Sexton’s claim for money damages against
Mr. Sexton did not object to Judge Davis’s recommendation that the Court
dismiss Mr. Sexton’s claim for injunctive relief against Judge Furr. However, the
Court briefly addresses the reasons to dismiss Mr. Sexton’s claim for injunctive
When Judge Davis issued his report and recommendation, Mr. Sexton was in
custody awaiting trial on his state court charges.
(See docket sheet, State of
Alabama v. Sexton, CC-2013-00409). Therefore, Judge Davis properly concluded
that the Court did not have jurisdiction over Mr. Sexton’s claim for injunctive
relief under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. (See Doc. 7, pp. 6-7). On July 30,
2015, Mr. Sexton pleaded guilty to two of the five state court charges against him.
(See Doc. 37, State of Alabama v. Sexton, CC-2013-00409). Mr. Sexton currently
is serving a 20 year sentence. (See August 10, 2015 entry, State of Alabama v.
“For a plaintiff seeking prospective relief to have standing, he ‘must show a
sufficient likelihood that he will be affected by the allegedly unlawful conduct in
the future.’” Koziara v. City of Casselberry, 392 F.3d 1302, 1305 (11th Cir. 2004)
(quoting Johnson v. Bd. of Regents, 263 F.3d 1234, 1265 (11th Cir. 2001)). Mr.
Sexton has made no such showing. At this stage in the litigation, Judge Furr
cannot adjust Mr. Sexton’s bond because Mr. Sexton is serving a sentence in state
prison. Therefore, Mr. Sexton does not have standing to seek injunctive relief
because he cannot show a sufficient likelihood that Judge Furr will subject him to
the same allegedly unconstitutional conduct concerning a bond in the future. See
Koziara, 392 F.3d at 1305; Wahl v. McIver, 773 F.2d 1169, 1173 (11th Cir. 1985)
(“Past exposure to illegal conduct does not constitute a present case or controversy
involving injunctive relief.”).
For the reasons explained above, the Court accepts Judge Davis’s report and
adopts his recommendation that the Court dismiss Mr. Sexton’s complaint for
failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). The Court will enter
a separate dismissal order consistent with this memorandum opinion.
DONE and ORDERED this February 26, 2016.
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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